At 77, former Gujarat chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela has taken to Facebook and WhatsApp, looking for candidates for his new party. Vaghela, who quit the Congress in July and launched the Jan Vikalp Morcha (JVM) in September, is also using the JVM website to invite applications from ticket aspirants.
Vaghela’s son Mahendrasinh, who was the Congress MLA from Bayad (Sabarkantha) before stepping down during the Rajya Sabha elections, is not with his father’s new party. He is said to be seeking a BJP ticket.
While the two major parties battled factionalism in their efforts to finalise a list of candidates, the veteran set about trying to find some. Vaghela’s party put up a three-page form online two weeks ago. The form includes all the requirements of the Election Commission, party sources said.
“Anyone interested in politics can fill out the form. The reason why we used technology as one of the channels of getting candidates was to reinforce the idea of democracy,” Vaghela said. “It is also a way to ensure that we get younger people on the team.”
The JVM has received 352 applications, out of which it has shortlisted 180, around a fifth of them women. The party, which completed the shortlist Tuesday, plans to release the final list in a couple of days.
Vaghela, who had broken away from the BJP, too, to launch the Rashtriya Janata Party in 1996, spoke of the applicants’ keenness to contest. “Most people came because they wanted to make a change in the society,” Vaghela said. “We have been asking them what it takes to be a good citizen. None of them has been with a political party earlier, and that was the idea. There were quite a few doctors from Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot.”
On Tuesday, Vaghela released a video on Facebook describing how most parties are being “run from Delhi” while his party has the people as its high command — a slogan he had run the Rashtriya Janata Party with. The RJP had not won a single seat in the assembly elections of 1998, then won one in the Lok Sabha elections that year — in Bihar.
Vaghela, whose roots are in the RSS, has been a member of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, representing the Janata Party and the BJP at different times. In 1995, he was passed over for the chief minister’s chair, with the BJP preferring Keshubhai Patel instead. After breaking away, he became chief minister with Congress support in 1996. Eventually, he would merge the Rashtriya Janata Party with the Congress.
Today, he talks of what he looks for in an ideal candidate. “For us, the ideal candidate is someone who is not a cheat. I am not looking at their education only. A well educated candidate is a bonus but the party wants someone who will not cheat people,” Vaghela told The Indian Express over the phone. “I also made one thing clear — that we are not giving people any money. They have to undertake all the campaigns by themselves,” he said.
“We are focusing on issues that relate to roti, makaan and rozgar and would want our candidates to also work on such issues,” Vaghela added.
During the RJP days, Vaghela had raised an “army” of young volunteers, which he named “Shakti Dal”, a wing of the party. Vaghela is also founder of the Bapu Gujarat Knowledge Village, a conglomerate of educational institutes set up in Gandhinagar.
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